The Missouri Western football team had such high hopes after a 2-0 start to their season. The Griffons scored a combined 95 points in their first two wins and were flying high before a heartbreaking loss to Central Missouri derailed their season.
There were some positives to take out of this season; the Griffons finished fifth in the MIAA in scoring–averaging 30 points per game. Western also led the conference in rushing, averaging 218 yards per game. Running back Josh Caldwell led the MIAA with 1,408 yards rushing.
“I was impressed with Josh, but I knew that he was going to be good–I recruited him,” Partridge said.
One of the biggest question marks coming into the season was the wide receiver position. The Griffons’ starting receiver had zero experience coming into the season, but Dijuan Ussery and Patrick Bolton came through big for the Griffon offense. The two combined for 65 receptions and 1,270 yards. Ussery was second in the conference in yards per catch, averaging 24.2 yards per catch and finished eighth in the conference with six touchdowns.
“They did some really good things, but I was really disappointed with how they finished,” Partridge said. “But they’re really good players and I expect them to have a really good year next year.”
Where the Griffons look to improve in 2017 is on the defensive side of the ball. The Missouri Western defense allowed 29.5 points per game and finished sixth in total defense. Partridge is hopeful that by adding depth this off-season, it will help the defense improve.
“Our defense just got warn down,” Partridge said.
The Griffons return all but two starters on the offensive side of the ball. The team returns their leading rusher, receiver and a healthy Skylar Windmiller. Windmiller had over 2,100 yards passing and 17 touchdowns before going down in their game against Washburn.
“We were shocked when he went down, but we all kept saying ‘next man up’,” Caldwell said. “We just had to trust that the next man could do the job.”
Missouri Western will have to improve on their kicking game over the off-season. Kicker Sean Galey finished the season making just five of his 10 field goal opportunities.
“We have missed 23 field goals in two years,” Partridge said. “I went back and from 2010 to 2014 we missed 23 field goals.”
The Griffons had 13 players named All-MIAA, and all but two of those players will return next season.
“This may be the most depth we’ve ever had coming up next season,” Partridge said. “If we keep the quarterback healthy and kick the ball through the goalposts, we’re going to be a good football team.”